Hospitals treating 50% MORE Covid patients than at height of first peak, NHS chief warns

HOSPITALS are treating 50 per cent more Covid patients than at the peak of the first wave in April, an NHS chief has warned.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, told this evening's Downing Street briefing the situation in hospitals is "incredibly serious".

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He said there were more hospital inpatients in every region in England than back in April, the peak of the first wave.

The number of inpatients are "accelerating very, very rapidly", he warned, adding the pressures on the NHS are "real and growing".

It comes as:

  • Boris Johnson vowed to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of people a day by next week
  • The UK recorded 52,618 new COVID-19 coronavirus cases and 1,162 additional deaths
  • Matt Hancock laid out four criteria for lifting Britain's lockdown – and said he thinks this third lockdown will be the last
  • A new Covid drug which can slash the risk of death will be given on the NHS.

Sir Simon told the press conference: “We’ve seen an increase of 10,000 hospitalised coronavirus patients just since Christmas Day."

This figure is the equivalent of 20 acute hospitals, he said.

“That is of course all happening at what is traditionally the busiest time of year for hospitals and the wider NHS.

“The pressures are real and they are growing, and that is why … it is vital that we do all take the steps necessary to control the growth of infection.”

On the darkest day for UK hospitals in April, there were 21,684 coronavirus patients.

There were 30,370 Covid-19 patients in hospitals across the UK on January 5, according to the Government dashboard.

It's a difference of 40 per cent, but Sir Simon is likely to have more updated figures from the past two days.

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital in England alone stood at a record 28,246 on January 7, according to the latest figures from NHS England, 24 per cent higher than one week ago.

In London, Sir Simon said more than 800 patients a day are being admitted to hospitals.

“That is the equivalent of a new St Thomas’ hospital full of Covid patients, fully staffed, every day, or a new University College Hospital, full of coronavirus patients every day,” he said.

The London NHS intends to open the London Nightingale hospital next week as cases in the capital continue to rise.

“The entirety of the health service in London is mobilising to do everything it possibly can but the rate of growth in admissions – that is what collectively the country has got to get under control", Sir Simon said.

It comes after officials warned London was just two weeks away from running out of beds in a "best case scenario".

Sir Simon rubbished claims that hospitals are not under pressure from the rising coronavirus cases as a “lie”.

He said false claims on social media were changing behaviour in a way that could kill people and an “insult” to staff working in critical care.

“There is nothing more demoralising than having that kind of nonsense spouted when it is most obviously untrue,” he told the No 10 news conference.

This grim picture of Covid right now, Sir Simon said, means no one is more motivated than NHS staff – who have dealt with the "tragic consequences" of coronavirus – to get the vaccine into people's arms rapidly.

He urged the public to comply with the lockdown and accept their vaccine offer when it comes.

There will be a “huge acceleration” in the vaccination programme over the coming weeks, Sir Simon said.

He told the No 10 news conference that they had 39 days to meet the target set by the Prime Minister to vaccinate the most vulnerable.

“We need a huge acceleration if we are, over the next five weeks, going to vaccinate more people than we typically vaccinate over five months during a winter flu programme. We have got 39 days to do it,” he said.

He said the “bulk” of the vaccinations would be carried out at GP surgeries and pharmacies, but that the number of hospital hubs and large-scale vaccination centres were also being increased.

Mr Johnson said the vaccine roll-out – aimed atreaching 15 million of the most vulnerable to by February 15 – was a "national challenge on a scale like nothing we've seen before".

He said Britain was in a "race against time" against the disease.

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